The final extra step that we take with our seed corn fields is simply referred to as male destroy. The female plant is all that is harvested for seed corn so the male has got to go. There are a few different methods to getting this done but the objective is the same. The machine that Josh owns is fairly unique, especially for our area. His attaches to the front of the sprayer and cuts down 4 rows of male for each pass through the field. There are 4 arms that reach down to about a foot off the ground. At the ends of each arm there is a spinning wheel head with blades attached. It is quite the intimidating machine and you don’t want to go anywhere near the heads while they are spinning. To be honest I avoid them even when they aren’t spinning because the blades are so sharp. Below is a picture of what the rows look like after the machine has been through.
One of the hardest parts of this job is keeping the sprayer between the rows. The corn is at its full height so it’s nearly impossible to see the ground. The corn must be cut off as close to the ground as possible so not seeing makes that harder than it sounds. The picture below shows the view from the cab of the sprayer.
Around each seed corn field they plant barrier rows which are just a bunch of male only rows that help ensure pollination. These rows are typically destroyed using the tractor and bat wing mower. We try to have this done before the destroy machine comes to the field so it is easier for the operator to count the rows and get turned around. Granted it’s easy to tell which are male because they are the only rows that still have the tassels. Any assistance the guys can get is greatly appreciated though. Once the barriers rows are down we plant a cover crop to help ensure the health of our soil. The below picture shows the rye grass that was planted a few weeks ago and it’s grown so much already.
After this is all done distinguishing a seed corn field from a commercial corn field is very easy. Commercial corn rows will all be the same height, have tassels and will not be missing any rows. Seed corn fields will be short, have no tassels, and every 5th row will be down.
Once the field is ready then corn pickers (not combines) come in and pick the entire ear from the stalk. We do not have a corn picker so others come in to harvest. The picker runs the ear up a conveyor belt into a chase cart. Once full the cart goes to a semi and the cart is on hydraulics and tips sideways to dump the ears into the semi trailer. The loads are taken to one of a few different processing plants, the closest of which is located in Grinnell. It then becomes the seeds that will be planted by farmers next year. We have a tendency to sit back and watch the seed corn fields be harvested. It’s satisfying to see the field that you have invested so much extra time finally come to the last step and taken away. You can hear the sigh of relief with each pass.
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Until next time!